Finally, an absurdist comedy that wears the label proudly. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone comes from the Will Ferrell school of film comedies, meaning that we have bizarre people doing bizarre things, but it somehow gels. The film isn’t quite the classic it could have been with such a stacked cast of comedic actors, but it’s nevertheless continuously funny and well worth 100 minutes of your time on an early Spring day.
Steve Carell stars as the title character. As the film opens he is a young kid, frequently getting bullied. His life changes forever when he receives a magic kit by famed magician Rance Holloway (Arkin) for his birthday. Soon, he and his only friend, Anton (Buscemi), are thinking up their own illusions based on Holloway’s beginner tricks. Fast forward a few decades and the two have reached Siegfried and Roy-type stardom; working Vegas and the ladies. But there’s a new guy in town bringing a new style of “magic”: street performer Steve Gray (Carrey), a self-mutilating freak show who now threatens Burt and Anton’s traditional, family-friendly act.
The overarching story is really nothing new, as screenwriters Jon Goldstein and John Daley touch on well-worn tropes such as falling from stardom, aging, and feelings of alienation. It’s the consistent dashes of absurdist and frequently dark comedy that keeps things humming, and director Don Scardino does a nice job of stepping aside and letting his litany of comedic talent do their thing. Carell excels in his usual deadpan role, but Jim Carrey walks off with pretty much every scene he’s in. Barely recognizable as a long-haired, tattooed David Blaine/Kriss Angel-esque shock artist, Carrey is absolutely hilarious for the first time in a decade. Whether it’s sleeping all night on a bed of hot coals or holding his urine for twelve days, Carrey is given free reign to do the kind of physical comedy that made him so famous almost twenty years ago. Also, bonus points for ditching the usual sappy ending and instead delivering the gags the whole way through. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone won’t blow you away with originality, but I’ll be damned if it’s not the most consistently funny comedy in recent memory.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 100 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language.
Theatrical Release: March 15, 2013
Directed by: Don Scardino
Written by: Jonathan M. Goldstein & John Francis Daley.
Cast: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini